First drive: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray in the UAE
There are very few cars that generate the kind of hype that the all-new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray has. The hype is warranted, judging by its initial photos and specs-sheet alone. But what is it like in real life?
While we had our doubts earlier about the C7-generation’s styling, they were erased when we saw the car in person. It looks absolutely phenomenal. It got a lot of attention from passing car enthusiasts, although for some inexplicable reason, we were also tailgated and cut off more than usual by vans and taxis. What did they think it was?
Inside, the cabin is miles ahead of how it used to be in Corvettes. There’s extensive use of stitched leather all over the dash and doors, with some surfaces padded even. There’s also some aluminium and carbon-fibre trim thrown in there for good measure, while the in-car tech is as much as you’ll ever need in a sports car, such as a touchscreen nav, a partial LCD gauge cluster and a heads-up display, among other gadgetry. Good a/c too, something the Europeans can’t seem to figure out.
Space is actually pretty good inside this 2-seater liftback coupe. Boot volume is enough for weekly groceries, but not much more, and having only a piece of cloth stopping cargo from spilling forward onto the seats isn’t exactly ideal.
Powered by a big 6.2-litre V8 making 455 hp and the noise to match, it sounds impressive until you realise it’s not as fast as you thought it would be. The hype made it seem like it could take down the Nissan GT-R, but our test car felt no quicker than a half-price Camaro SS when it came to low-end kick in the September heat, hampered by a hesitant 6-speed automatic gearbox that took an eternity to kick-down gears. When you realise a Mustang makes 435 hp out of a 5.0-litre, it’s even less impressive. But then again, the Z06 exists for a reason.
But as funny as it may sound to armchair experts, the strength of this American sports car is actually in the handling. Our car came with the Z51 package that adds sportier suspension, a rear spoiler and other bits, and it’s apparently the only version that local dealers are currently offering. Cornering limits are as high as any number of rivals, Porsche 911 included, with immense grip and unnoticeable body roll. As a positive, the paddle-shifters are reasonably quick at swapping gears as well, making for a much better driving experience than just leaving it to the lazy automatic mode.
We spent most of our time in “Touring” mode, exactly because it turns the car into a comfortable cruiser on city streets and highway runs. The steering becomes ridiculously light, while the suspension becomes fairly compliant, to the point where care has to be taken to not bottom out when bouncing on speed-bumps. The road noise is moderate, while the exhaust burble is seemingly subdued too.
In the intermediate “Sport” mode, the suspension stiffens up and the steering becomes firmer as well as gains some feedback, all commendable for being such a pronounced difference. The other two modes — “Weather” and “Eco” — we didn’t try out.
It’s not quite up to, say, “Porsche” standards when it comes to overall driving feel though. While the brakes are massive and the steering is sharp, both feel the tiniest bit spongy to control, damping out your fine-tuned inputs, as if to keep things as smooth as possible for potential piss-poor drivers. With five driving modes, it would’ve been better if the aggressive “Track” mode would’ve sharpened things up further than it did.
Still, the Corvette is a superb sports car, better than ever now that it finally got the extra attention it deserved from General Motors. It’s a surprisingly good daily driver, and judging by the stiffness of its chassis, it holds a lot of promise in more powerful upcoming versions, although at a whopping Dhs 330,000 that local dealers are asking for the Z51, it’s already nudging into Porsche 911 territory. But updates are forthcoming already, with the 2015 model getting a new 8-speed automatic in addition to the 7-speed manual option. If they can sort out the crispness of the controls and fine-tune the mechanical package further, it can truly become a world-beater.
For UAE prices and GCC specs, visit the Chevrolet Corvette buyer guide.